(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!)
This Week’s Journal Topic: Your Relationship with Food
It’s the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Everyday you attend to your relationship with food. You’re free to decide what, how, when, and with whom you eat. You’re free to decide how you feel emotionally about the act of eating, too. Eating can be a moral issue if you attach judgments to food, such as good/bad and punishment/reward, or if you think that the pleasure of eating must be earned.
Here are a few common expressions about food:
“You are what you eat.” The nutrients in the food literally become a part of your body.
“Eating your feelings,” refers to stifling negative emotions with food in order to avoid feeling them. A person piles food in, rather than becoming more aware of these feelings, accepting them, and working through them. “Eating your feelings” is an avoidance strategy and reflects a desire for comfort. Eating causes strong physical sensations that temporarily soothe anxiety and block out unwanted emotions.
“You are how you eat.” I made this one up, but I think it’s true, at least in a developed world in which we can make choices about what, when, where, and with whom we eat. The habits, rituals, and choices you make about consumption can:
- reflect your mental life – e.g. your thoughts about morality and ethics
- reflect your priorities – e.g. what serve as good reasons for a particular choice
- reinforce patterns of thinking – e.g. all-or-nothing perspective, self-discipline, moderation, assumptions, identifying and sorting facts
- Track everything you eat over the course of a day, adding in how you feel immediately and one hour after consuming it. (You might set a timer on your phone to remind you. Ideally, you would track a work day and a weekend day.)
- How do you decide when to eat? (Some suggestions: the clock, sensation of hunger, friends/colleagues telling you, emotions, craving, presence of food…)
- Do you think you could survive a day without food? How would you cope?
- Are you a picky eater?
- Do you believe in mental bargaining and trade-offs? (“I want to have dessert, so I’ll skip my snack and hit the gym”?) Why or why not?
- Do you think that nutritional needs should determine what you eat, or has modern medicine allowed us to outsmart our biology?
- Reflecting on the tracking practice: how does your body and mind respond to the nourishment you’re providing it?